Letter: Balancing Our Essential Rights
To the Editor:
Margaret Drye’s thoughtful piece on Jan. 20 (“Let Us Confront What We’ve Lost”) cautions pro-choice activists against commemorating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade with “selective memory.” Yet she herself holds up only one side of the issue. I would ask also that we confront what we lost before Roe v. Wade — the mothers, aunts, daughters and sisters in generation after generation who died from botched abortions.
Throughout history women have chosen to end some of their pregnancies, often in desperation. They scraped at their own insides with sharp objects, or ingested toxic folk remedies, or went into those shadowy places where they paid quacks to do these things. Sometimes they were rendered sterile. Sometimes they died.
These women have sought abortions for a wide range of reasons, ranging from the trivial to the tragic, the latter exemplified recently in Ireland by a young dentist whose fetus was dying. Her doctors — or more accurately, her pathetic excuses for doctors — sat by wringing their hands while they watched her die, refusing to perform the emergency abortion she begged for because they feared the Irish government, the wrath of the church, the loss of their medical licenses, or all three. Are there any abortion opponents who believe it was moral to allow that woman to die? Call it bureaucracy, call it dogmatism or call it cowardice, but please don’t insult God by calling it God’s will.
I commemorate mindfully and soberly the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. A choice like abortion should not be undertaken lightly. But unless we want to institute thought police to evaluate every woman’s reasons, we must acknowledge that while we don’t necessarily have the gift of perfect wisdom, humans have the gift of free will.
Anti-abortion activists make much of the inalienable right to life. Let us remember there are two other inalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence — liberty and the pursuit of happiness — and that sometimes it takes grit, loss and even compromise to balance all three against each other.
Rebecca Kvam Paquette